The Irish Government published a paper on its withdrawal negotiations objectives in May 2017.
The Taoiseach is involved as a member of the European Council in giving political direction in relation to Brexit negotiations in conjunction with the other 26 heads of government and heads of state. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is involved in the adoption of the negotiation directives as a member of the General Affairs Council.
The Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister of State European are regularly engaged in negotiations at a political level. Ireland’s permanent representatives at the EU are actively involved in the various preparatory.
Work on Brexit is guided by the Cabinet Committee on Brexit which is chaired by the Taoiseach with the involvement of the relevant ministers. It is supported by a departmental group on Brexit made up of senior officials from all government departments.
Six work streams have been established to prepare detailed analytical work on the sectors of most importance to Ireland. The work streams have completed a comprehensive analysis of the issues and the potential impact of Brexit. Work will continue with a view to informing Ireland’s position.
Brexit raises the most significant issues for Ireland. They include, in particular, Northern Ireland and the peace process, trade and whole range of relationships with the United Kingdom.
The Good Friday Agreement established the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and the British-Irish Council. The latter incorporates links with other devolved UK administrations.
The devolved government in Northern Ireland incorporates institutions for cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland including, in particular, the North-South Ministerial Council and a number of North-South bodies with modest powers. Meetings of the North-South ministerial council have ceased during the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and government.
Membership of the EU has been a fundamental element in the relationships between the Northern Ireland and Ireland and has underpinned the peace process in important ways. It provides a context in which Ireland and the UK can work in partnership and develop a broad relationship on a range of issues. It facilitates
- an open border
- common trading and regulatory standards
- shared inter-government cooperation and
- a shared European identity.
It provides direct financial support to special EU programs in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Both the UK and EU in their negotiation priorities have declared that to the extent possible, the UK’s departure has to have a minimum effect in these areas of co-operation.
Persons who exercise their entitlement to Irish citizenship in Northern Ireland will continue to be citizens of the EU. This will preserve their rights as EU citizens in other states.
The avoidance of a hard border is a key objective for Ireland, the EU and UK in the withdrawal negotiations. It has been acknowledged that the land border represents unique and unprecedented circumstances, which necessitated a bespoke solution. The closer the trading relationship between the UK and EU / Ireland after withdrawal, the less challenging would be the task of avoiding a hard border.
Ireland wishes to secure the continued implementation of the provisions of the Belfast Agreement through the withdrawal process and thereafter.
The Irish Government wishes to ensure that the continued rights of persons in Northern Ireland to identify themselves as British or Irish should be preserved.
The EU Council declaration acknowledges that if there was a constitutional change in the status of Northern Ireland pursuant to the Belfast Agreement provisions that Northern Ireland would become part of the EU.
Ireland has sought continued EU engagement in Northern Ireland. It has pointed to its unique constitutional, historical, geographical and citizenship arrangements.
Cross-Border EU Programmes
Ireland and the UK are partners in the three EU-funded cross-border programs with a total value of €650 million in the 2014 to 2020 period. The programs seek to promote regional development in a cross-border context and give practical support to the peace process.
Ireland seeks that the withdrawal agreement should provide for continued EU support and contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and the future development of the region. This includes providing for continuation of UK and EU support for PEACE and INTEREG as well as supports for a range of EU-funded programs.
Common Travel Area / Citizens’ Right
The Common Travel Area comprises reciprocal arrangements between the UK and Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, providing for free movement of citizens. It is not a written agreement and its scope is not defined. In a narrow sense, it is an immigration matter, but it is broader and effectively gives each state’s citizens, settled status in the other state on arrival.
The Common Travel Area has been in place continuously since 1922. It was suspended between 1940 and 1953 when checks were placed between Ireland and Britain but not at the Irish border.
Irish citizens are not aliens or non-nationals for most purposes in the United Kingdom. and Ireland is not a foreign country for any purpose under a UK law. UK citizens enjoy equivalent rights in Ireland to those enjoyed by Irish citizens in the UK.
Irish citizens are considered habitually resident in the UK and vice versa and have access to health, education and other services including voting rights as such. These arrangements have not been the subject of specific legislation but have operated in practice since Ireland’s cessation from the United Kingdom in 1922.
There are 841 flights to Great Britain a week out of Dublin airport alone. The Dublin-London air route is Europe’s busiest and the world’s second busiest with 368 flights a week during 2016-2017 winter schedule.
The Common Travel Area is an important element of the tourism industry. Tourism is promoted internationally on an all-island basis under the relevant North-South body.
Irelands seeks to secure that the long-standing bilateral Common Travel Area arrangements will be maintained in conformity with EU law. Ireland and the UK have remained outside the Schengen area, which is a common travel and visa area of which the EU and several other EEA and third states are a party.
Ireland has been a significant beneficiary of EU development funds over the years. It has also received significant payments from the Common Agricultural Policy. Structural funds were important in modernising the economy in the 1990s. Access to research and enterprise funding remains important.
In broad terms, Ireland’s contribution to the EU has roughly matched its receipts over the last five years. After the financial crisis, Ireland has resumed its position as a net contributor.
The bulk of Ireland’s receipts, approximately €1.3 million euro come through the common agricultural policy payments. Total receipts in 2015 were approximately €1.9 billion.
The withdrawal of the UK from the EU will leave a significant hole in the EU budget, as the UK is a significant net contributor of the order of approximately €10 billion. This will lead to increased requirements for funding from member states and/ or a reduction in program expenditure.
The next multi-annual financial framework negotiated in the context of Britain’s net contribution. Questions arise as to Britain’s liability in respect of the current framework on departure.
Ireland’s strategy for Brexit indicates that it wants the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK, including in relation to trade. It seeks that free trade agreement negotiations commence as soon as possible, once sufficient progress has been made on withdrawal issues.
Ireland seeks that the UK-EU free trade agreement should be as comprehensive and ambitious as possible. Ireland will seek to protect the key sectors of the economy given the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. Ireland affirms that a strong and functioning single market is essential for economic growth and job creation.
The free trade agreement should promote regulatory conformity, manage potential regulatory divergence and impose the disciplines necessary to ensure a level playing field. There must be a robust dispute resolution mechanism and associated enforcement process.
The future relationship should continue strong cooperation outside of trade areas including in crime, terrorism, research, mutual recognition of qualifications, civil aviation and others.